To celebrate the brand’s centenary, we list what may be some of the most iconic models from the past 100 years.
The Blower Bentley – No list would be complete without this supercharged car. W.O. was originally opposed to using forced induction, preferring instead to increase the engine’s size, he was overruled. He said that it would “pervert the engine’s design and corrupt its performance.” He was proven wrong and the “Blower” as it came to be known has since become something of a legend.
R-Type Continental – Today’s Bentley Continental GT owes a debt to the original from 1952. The fastback shape is one of Bentley’s most iconic and recognisable and helped to inspire the new car. Here was a machine that could cruise comfortably at over 100mph with four people and their luggage. This was practically unheard of at the time. Only 208 cars have ever been built, making it almost as rare as the Blower. This was thanks to the price. At a time when the average salary was £468 and the average house cost £1,891, the Continental cost an eye watering £6,928 including tax.
Continental GT – You may scoff at this car even being mentioned but it has done something even Rolls Royce has failed to do. It has brought a great British marque into the 21st century. No company can rely solely on tradition for ever to survive. It must attract a new generation and the “footballers’ car” has done exactly that and helped to ensure the brands long term success.
Speed 8 – Nobody said a list of the greatest Bentleys of all time had to be road going production cars. The company’s triumphant return to Le Mans came in the form of the Speed 8. While the car had some input with Audi (most notably the engine), it was a British company, Racing Technology Norfolk, that was responsible for its design, development, and manufacture. In 2003 the V8 powered machine took home the top spot, beating even the Audi R8, the single most successful Le Mans car of all time.
Brooklands – There have been two cars to bare this title but it is perhaps the later car that deserves its spot in this list. The 2-door coupe launched in 2008 was built in limited numbers, just 550 by 2011. The 6.75-litre overhead valve Rolls Royce V8 is a dinosaur of an engine. Yet with a pair of turbochargers it makes 530 horsepower and 1,050 newton metres (744 lb-ft) of torque. No other petrol powered V8 in any production car has made more torque. This allows the 2.6-tonne behemoth to reach 60mph in just 5 seconds keep going to 184mph.
Only time will tell what the company has in store for the future. But if the recent concepts are anything to go by, the next century will be just as exciting as the first.